LSU and UCLA Meet In The Sweet 16 Saturday On ABC

LSU women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey waits to congratulate sophomore guard Flau'jae Johnson (4) during LSU's SEC showdown with No. 1 South Carolina at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. PHOTO BY: Michael Bacigalupi

ALBANY, N.Y. – No. 3 LSU will face No. 2 UCLA Saturday at noon CT in the Sweet 16 at MVP Arena as two of the nation’s top rebounding teams look to keep their NCAA Tournament runs alive.

Ryan Ruocco, Rebecca Lobo and Holly Rowe will call the action on ABC. Fans can listen to Patrick Wright and Shaeeta Williams on the LSU Sports Radio Network, 100.7 FM in Baton Rouge.

“I think that our team is just a special team when we all come together,” Flau’Jae Johnson said. “Last year was fun and it was kind of unexpected because we weren’t supposed to win, so now we’re just trying to build, build, build on that. Of course we don’t want to get home, but we’re definitely fighting, and it’s exciting for me. I’m ready to play.”

This is the second year in a row a three-seed LSU will take on a two-seed. The Tigers defeated Utah, 66-63, last season to advance to the Elite Eight. Saturday will mark the 16th time LSU plays in the Sweet 16 as the Tigers look to advance to their 10th Elite Eight. The winner of LSU-UCLA will take on the winner of No. 1 Iowa and No. 5 Colorado which is set to tip directly after LSU and UCLA.

LSU and UCLA are two of the best rebounding teams in the nation. The Bruins lead the country with a +14.2 rebound margin and LSU is No. 2 with a +13.1 rebound margin. Both teams rank in the top-eight nationally in rebound per game; LSU averages about three more rebounds than UCLA each game. All five of LSU’s starters average scoring in double figures and the Bruins have four starters who do the same.

The matchup in the post will be one of intrigue with Angel Reese and Lauren Betts going to head. Reese, with 25 double-doubles on the season, is averaging 18.7 points and 13.2 rebound per game. Betts has 12 double-doubles, averaging 14.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.

Along with Reese, the Tigers have Aneesah Morrow in post who has 21 double-doubles this season. Morrow and Reese are the only teammates in America to both have 20+ double-doubles. Morrow averages 16.5 points and 10.0 rebounds per game as an undersized post player who can stretch the floor. With 91 steals and counting this season, Morrow is currently tied for the fourth most steals in a season in program history.

“We’re not just focusing on Lauren Betts and their post play,” Coach Kim Mulkey said. “She averages, I think, nine shots a game. Somebody has got to be shooting those other shots. That answers your question. They’re good at all positions. They have depth coming off the bench, and probably even more productive depth than we have had of late.”

The matchup of guards will be just as entertaining with both teams featuring highly skilled guards. Flau’Jae Johnson has continued to shine as one of the most improved players in the nation after earning SEC Freshman of the Year last season. She has scored over 20 points in four of LSU’s past six games, including 21 in LSU’s second-round win over MTSU where her energy provided a spark for LSU in the second half. Mikaylah Williams, this year’s SEC Freshman of the Year, has averaged 15.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in her first two NCAA Tournament games. Hailey Van Lith, who went to a Final Four and an Elite Eight at Louisville, played great defense in the second half against MTSU to limit the Blue Raiders’ offensive efficiency and allow the Tigers to cruise to victory. She is still looking for the offensive output she is capable of and has averaged 11.8 points per game this season.

Kiki Rice runs the show for UCLA scoring 13.2 points and dishing out 4.0 assists per game to go along with 5.8 rebounds. UCLA’s guards pull their weight on the boards as Charisma Osborne also grabs over five rebounds per game to go with 14.1 points per game. Londyn Jones scores 11.8 points per game and is the Bruins’ biggest threat from beyond the arc, shooting the three-ball at 37.1-percent.

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